I’ve always thought of Arrington De Dionysio, leader of Olympia, Washington’s Old Time Relijun, as too cute to affect something like hellish Nick Cave-ian menace. I wanna put him in my pocket, not cower and splash holy water. When he bubbles and cackles about uprooting mountains “for kindling and powder” on Catharsis in Crisis, it feels like a child’s sandbox-and-army-men fantasy, not really an invocation of Thor’s hammer. So on an album obsessed with natural and supernatural fury, as is Catharsis in Crisis, De Dionysio comes off as a little more Labyrinth than Dark Crystal in his depiction of ominous deeds.
“Daemon Meeting” demonstrates the man’s shortcoming as he quivers over a skronky guitar lead: “All the demons get together for a conference/ a demon meeting in the board room/ set up the chairs and Styrofoam cups/ the clapping of wings and the gnashing of teeth/ I rode the elevator and got off on the wrong floor/ hanging out by the corkboard.” The initial details of this odd scene give an imaginative picture worthy of a demented Kids in the Hall sketch, then De Dionysio abruptly ends the track screaming “What does it mean to be human?” adding an unbecoming sense of portentousness to the song. Whether we’re supposed to laugh or think about the disconnected nature of our modern existence just takes the fun out of it.
Sure, we’re supposed to call this kind of record a concept album (here something about demon-filled forests and incredible births), but we should really just thank the band for stringing its jam session together along something that resembles a common thread. The faux-weightiness of fire-and-brimstone lyrics threaten to level Catharsis from the start. Indeed, the cornerstone that props Relijun’s music is molded of that most faux-weighty of all hipster styles, no-wave. But the whimsical nature of Old Time Relijun’s performances can levitate its impenetrable no-wave-isms, lightened by the guileless invention of De Dionysio’s vocals and especially Old Time Relijun’s trim, bone-dry rhythm section.
So Catharsis in Crisis is fun in places once you get the feeling that these guys are better players than they make out. But that same tossed-off quality — briefly charming — becomes frustrating at about the fifth track. “Dark Matter” (lo-fi era-Floyd) and “Indestructible Life” (Middle-Eastern-tinged scuzz) are cool, especially when they let the saxes go wild. But like most no-wave grime, Cartharsis in Crisis gives the feeling that the band is playing more for itself than its listeners, and that’s no fun for anyone.
“Indestructible Life!”: http://www.krecs.com/html/press/medialisten.php?interest=153